Double win!

Hello,

I post two chapters today! I had planned on releasing chapter 6 earlier but I completely forgot because I was writing chapter 7. This one tells you, like, lots of things, so you’ll know the plot with this chapter. Enjoy!

7 – History lessons aren’t that bad

 

Omnia was a utopia.

It has everything a man needs; from resources to services. The air was clean and the weather was stabile, no storms or any other harmful natural hazards. Technology was a hundred years too early but humans soon adapted to the modernised lifestyle very quickly. Things like live cinemas – where you could watch a film just like how you watch a play – and flying cars – they were not literally flying cars, but they do not use fuel and uses magnets to navigate instead, as the road had magnets embedded in them – had never been invented by a sole human. But Omnia had it all.

It all started during the End. People had called it the End of the World, but the Innocent Souls had recalled it as Armageddon’s Awakening. According to the Manual, Armageddon would awaken one day to banish all the evil on the Earth; by then, it would be safe for Omnia, the majestic country, to emerge from the bottom of the Earth.

The land had shifted, getting closer together to form a mass of crust. Omnia had appeared in the centre of the land. It was a luminous dome that outsized the other things that existed, and had the capability of containing a large number of people. The process of emerging was quiet a violent one, with continuous earthquakes and the sinking and rising of lands, making the topography a lot different than what it used to be.

Inside the dome was a clean place, free of pollution and destruction, as opposed to what Earth was back then. People had wanted to get under the protection of the dome, and so the Countdown started.

A man in a dark hood had announced to every human being alive that the Countdown would be a period where humans could enter the dome safely. When the time is up, the doors leading to the country will be closed, and the remaining people would have to survive outside the dome, where they have to fend for themselves.

Men and women raced against each other, desperate to get into safety. There were some nasty tactics that people used in order to achieve the goal, meaning lots of atrocities, gore bloodshed everywhere. By the time the Countdown ended, a quarter of the survivors survived the Countdown; half of the population were murdered and the other quarter was left back in the wilderness. When humans entered Omnia, they were greeted by the Innocent Souls, who then treated them with the most hospitality anyone could get.

Interestingly, when Omnia had risen, some odd plants and animals also came together as an extra parcel. Some of the animals and plants were harmless, while some were pretty vicious. Nevertheless, the people in the Outside had rebuilt their civilisation, erecting buildings and plantings crops, as well as creating a big family where they watch over each other.

It was not clear on their current status and details about their lifestyle but rumours told that they rebuilt countries and organised new systems and laws. If compared to Omnia, the technology was inferior but in terms of economic prowess, it could defeat Omnia in a matter of years. Each country had presidents, as well as a governor. A governor held higher status than a president and was part of the World Government; this was a group of governors who worked behind the curtains, unknown to everyone except the president. No one knew the identity of their governor and they didn’t really care – as long as everything was going smoothly, it was best not to ruin it.

Moreover, it was also rumoured that the governors had connections with Omnia’s king, Pietro R. Tuppeepter (pronounced “tup-peh-ter”). Omnia’s king was also shady in some ways or another. No one knew how he looked like and he never appeared in public – he would use his “menservants” to deliver messages or go to meetings. What annoyed the people of Omnia the most was how he had ruled for impossibly long years.

He had existed from before Armageddon’s awakening and some speculated that he was the man who declared the Countdown. Innocent Souls seemed to know the secret behind Pietro R. Tuppeepter but they’ve kept their mouths sewn. No one dared to even mention his name with bad intentions; there had been stories of those who defied him, and they didn’t end very well. Gruesome, that was all there is to the stories.

He was the most suspicious man on Earth.

 

“That’s the history of Earth after the Awakening,” Imogen finished, concluding the flashback.

Armada and Celestia registered as many information as they could. They hadn’t slept for the rest of the night and so their heads felt heavy and their eyelids were about to fall off any second. Meanwhile, sleeping soundly on the fluffy round bed was Vega who was yet to wake up despite the rising sun, the rays seeping through the gaps in the curtains they had closed before going to work. Though it was supposed to be a majestic sight to look at an early sunrise, the trio saw it as doom, a burning glare from the heavens.

It wasn’t shown but Imogen was about to faint any moment, too. Even though she’s high and mighty, she’s primarily a woman and at a young age, too. The fact that she didn’t complain or outwardly express her exhaustion proved her strong personality. Admirable, Celestia thought.

They hadn’t had anything except for two mugs of coffee, which were finished ages ago. They had also heard Vega’s stomach rumble a few times before. Armada had licked his lips frequently, trying to moisten the dry lips so they would stop cutting and bleeding; Celestia didn’t even bother to lick hers because her tongue was worse than dry. In other words, they were hungry. And thirsty. And sleepy. They are everything that is “tired”.

The three of them had spent the night reading the documents left by Dr. Sia, Imogen’s late father. The piles of papers were written in a complicated form of Omnia tongue which only Imogen could understand, though some parts were complete non-sense and took time to decipher. Though Armada never thought about it but Celestia’s obsession in history helped them a lot – yes, but he still found it creepy how she would babble non-stop about her knowledge of the unknown. Nevertheless, it was very helpful.

At first, the documents were on a heap on the wooden floor but after time passed, they had invaded the bed, threatening to smother the sleeping boy. They soon moved them back to the floor, which hid the polished wood that used to bounce off the lights from the lamps around them.

Bandersnatch was curled up as a cat next to Vega, snuggling into his neck, absorbing the pleasant warmth. The physical form was different from what it remembered but the boy was definitely its master. The rhythmical breathing was like a symphony, making a sweet harmony with Bandersnatch’s breathing. The shape-shifter had stayed awake with the other scientists but decided to retreat when the room became uncomfortably silent and the group was too engrossed in their task to notice Bandersnatch peeking over their shoulders to look at the papers.

Throwing the papers over her head, Imogen slumped onto the round bed, sighing deeply. “Bandersnatch, go make us some sandwiches and orange juices for the guests – I’ll have Earl Grey, the usual,” Imogen requested, voice still firm despite her condition.

The cat leapt up immediately and turned itself into a little girl, leaping over the metal slab that once was the door and hopping off into the kitchen. The other two scientists also relaxed and inhaled a deep breath of not-so-fresh air. Imogen had also realised the thickened air and proceeded in opening the curtains – the sunlight attacked her eyes, making her squint her eyes as mall as she could – and opened the window to let in the cool morning air.

Morning breezes were the best, especially after a day of full-time action. Celestia felt shivers of relief creeping up and down her spine as she stretched her stiff limbs and back. Armada had left the world and snored lightly onto the bed, head resting at the edge while the rest of his body was seated cross-legged on the floor – even while sleeping, he still had a serious look on his face, knitted eyebrows and permanent frown.

Celestia bore her eyes into the Adamesque chandelier, the cream coloured high ceiling highlighting the twinkling garland, formed by tear shaped glasses, hanging from each baluster like sleeping silver bats. The cream ended a few inches above the door – or what was left of the door – at the golden dentil moulding, where the lush green began and reached the moulding at the base of the walls. The combination was soothing. Pleasant. Nice.

After moments of enjoyable silence, Bandersnatch came in with a big tray of sandwiches, three glasses of orange juices and a cup of Earl Grey; it was now in the form of a tall man, so to carry the tray with ease. Noticing the limp bodies scattered around the room, Bandersnatch quietly dropped the tray onto the table near the window. “Bandersnatch,” the beast nearly knocked over the tray when Celestia suddenly called it, “Oh, sorry for scaring you.”

“It’s okay,” Bandersnatch smiled.

“I just want to ask you something,” Celestia said, “When people attack Innocent Souls, they’re supposed to get around ten-time fold of payback, right?”

“Yes, that’s true.”

Celestia lifted her head and rested it on her arm, “So if you nearly killed Vega – no offence but it looked like you did – then why didn’t you get beaten up?”

Bandersnatch stared at her for a minute or so before looking down to think. “I’m… not sure, either,” he said slowly, carefully, “I was expecting something… painful and magical when I realised that Vega was an Innocent Soul, but I don’t see anything odd happening. Well, maybe not yet,” he added with uncertainty.

“Oh, okay. Make sure you take care of yourself when something happens,” Celestia smiled cheekily. Bandersnatch returned it with a hearty chuckle.

“Ooh… Celestia is cheating on Armada…”

Celestia and Bandersnatch jumped at Imogen’s comment. The young lady was sitting hunched on the bed, giggling in the weirdest way anyone has ever heard, mouth fixated into a broad grin, her dark eyes turned into slits. Bandersnatch turned crimson, covering its mouth and looking as if it wished it would sink to the very bottom of the Earth. Celestia glared at the dark-haired woman playfully.

“Hey, I see nothing appealing in the tyrant,” Celestia retorted.

“Denying now, are we?” Imogen’s giggles turned into loud chuckles, “Oh, gosh! You should see the look on Bandy’s face; it’s priceless!” Celestia turned to meet the Bandersnatch, turning redder every second. The two ladies burst into laughter as Bandersnatch tried to keep his face straight but failing to do so, turning its thin lips from a crooked line to a bumpy form of frown-smile.

Armada grunted loudly, making the two girls shush at each other, though they were still giggling like schoolgirls. A movement on the bed surprised Imogen, who immediately jumped out of it. “Oh my god! You scared me!” she said breathless from the laughter.

Vega sat up slowly, eyes narrowed sleepily, hair reaching out everywhere, body slumped. He looked at everyone in the room, then at the piles of papers and the metal tray full of sandwiches and beverages. His stomach growled unconsciously, making the two ladies laugh their heads off. And once again Armada grunted.

Moments later, Vega, Imogen and Celestia were wolfing down the ham and cheese sandwiches, leaving some for the sleeping tyrant. According to Celestia, Armada was a vegetarian, so they had left the olives, cheese and lettuce sandwiches stacked neatly on the ceramic plate, as well as a glass of freshly squeezed orange nectar. It felt like it had been decades since their last meal – though Imogen just ate the night before, she was as famished as the other two; having used her Blueprint had used up a lot of energy.

The three decided to just sit around after the meal, resting their dried-up bodies on the bed. Vega had asked if he could explore some places, like the backyard or something. Imogen had agreed in accompanying him, much to his chagrin.

“You look so tired so I think you should just rest,” Vega denied the offer modestly.

“Nah, I’m good. I’m all fired up after the meal, anyway!” Imogen insisted, placing her hands on her hips, all smiles and radiating childish enthusiasm. Vega couldn’t say no to this. Well, that means he’s vulnerable to women, then.

After getting garments and sunglasses from Bandersnatch’s collection – Imogen had explained that Bandersnatch had the tendency to take the laundry from the citizens when the weather’s fine, and pickpockets when among crowds – Vega and Imogen walked slowly to the backyard, having a friendly chat while going down the spiral stairs, through vast corridors, across the grand hall and to the goliath metal backdoor.

Imogen pushed open the door with ease to reveal a thick forest layered with all kinds of trees; aspens, oaks, cherries, maples, and other trees native to Omnia, such as the spiralling kakoa trees and purple-leaved polea trees. Marigolds, bluebells, forget-me-nots, moss-roses, lilies, poppies, primroses, anemones and maereos accompanied their journey along the path, to the deeper part of the “backyard”. Wisterias hung from steel arches, making a tunnel of spring despite the hot glare of the sun.

Vega watched in awe, white eyes darting from plants to plants, smiling unconsciously at the inhumanly beautiful sight. “How can you grow these together?” he asked, “I read somewhere that some plants need certain conditions to grow, not every plant have the same requirements.”

Imogen smirked, “Let’s just say it’s an advanced technology… and a bit of magic.”

“Magic?” Vega cocked his head.

“You could call it magic but I’m not sure of the official name for it,” Imogen said, “That aside, I actually have a reason for coming with you here. Not because I’m not tired, no. I’m actually about to drop dead any moment but I can manage, I think.”

“Oh. If it’s about the dog problems, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to knock.”

“No, no. That problem’s already handled. Well, sort of. But anyway, do you remember anything from last night?” Vega dipped his head in thought, and lifted his gaze after a moment, shaking his head.

“All I could remember was my conversation with Bandersnatch, me getting sleepy, and you guys barging in through the door,” Vega replied.

“Do you remember anything before you get sleepy?”

“I asked who Bandersnatch’s master was. I remember him saying his name but I can’t remember what it was.” Imogen nodded, now focused on the road.

“Name trigger, I see,” Imogen said half to herself and half to Vega, “Seems like he casted a spell on that word, and saying it would break the Seal. That person really is tricky.”

“Umm, who are you talking about?” The woman grabbed Vega’s shoulders and stared into his white eyes with her dark orbs, startling the boy.

“Vega, dude, boy, whatever; see this flower?” Imogen plucked a blue flower nearby and held it close to Vega’s face. The boy nodded the movement quick and frantic. “You know the Latin name, right?”  The boy nodded again. “Right, remember this. You are not to say the name of this flower or hear it from anyone else, understand? It will cause some great damage and God knows what the world will come to.”

“W-what’s wrong with the flower?” Vega stammered, obviously puzzled.

“Long story short, you have something inside of you. Let’s just say you’re possessed, or something. This thing inside you is evil and wicked and many other horrible things mixed together. It was alive years ago but when it died, it goes to your body and lives in it. Luckily, there is something called a Seal, and this Seal prevents the spirit from waking up. The only thing that destroys the Seal is the state of death, or near death, and time. Apparently, I just found out that before he died, he had put a spell on his name, so if you say the word, the Seal will be broken and it will kill you –”

“I will die?!” Vega almost screamed but Imogen had muffled his worry quickly.

“Yes, but mentally, or was it spiritually? I’m pretty sure it’s both,” Imogen murmured the last part, “So yeah, you’ll not exist anymore. The monster will take over your body and use it for no good. So you must not say the word, clear?”

Vega nodded stiffly, not sure how to react to the things Imogen said. Were they true or was she just playing with him? But judging from the sullen atmosphere and the discomfort floating around, there was a high chance that it was true.

Basically, Vega had not just learned that he had a “monster” inside him, but also the fact that he’s in danger and dangerous at the same time. Does this have anything to do with going with Celestia and Armada? Vega asked Imogen that question, to which Imogen replied without hesitation.

“Yes. There’s an organisation – called Filter – that wants to go to a place called Avalon. Trigger anything?” Vega shook his head, still listening. Imogen left his shoulders and looked into the distance, into the forest of colours. “Okay, so these people want to go there to obtain power, wealth, to be the supreme ruler of the world; they’re power-hungry. It is almost impossible to persuade the leaders of Avalon but considering the fact that the Filters’ leader, Feredict Larkspur, is a mysterious man with a reputation of being a true Silver Tongue and a real prodigy in warfare, and Avalon’s mentally unstable leader, there might be a chance for them to be able to get these. But then again, it will cause a war, maybe as big as Armageddon’s awakening.

“That is why I.S.I.S., the organisation Celestia and Armada are working for, need to stop the Filters. They have to get to Avalon before the Filter does, if not stop them completely. Since they don’t have anybody as cunning as Feredict Larkspur, we have to get you – the person inside you – and Ragnarok. You and Ragnarok are some kind of passport, something that lets people into Avalon, so Celestia and Armada need you to get through Avalon’s security system without trouble, without causing a conflict.

“Unfortunately, the Filters found out about their plan and they started to kill every Innocent Soul there is, to prevent I.S.I.S. from finding you and Ragnarok. The Filters used a pathetic excuse like ‘eliminating the impurity in our world’ so the citizens – the human citizens, that is – won’t have anything against them. Truthfully, some humans think that they are the ones who are supposed to rule, not the Innocent Souls, who weren’t even present since the beginning of life. However, this was not true.

“Innocent Souls and Omnia had existed way before the Earth. Omnia had been a part of Avalon, but it was casted down to Earth when a certain incident happened, making it too dangerous for the Innocent Souls to live in Avalon. And guess what? That incident was the creation of mankind.” A bird perched on Imogen’s delicate finger, singing sweetly and other birds joined in the chorus. “When Eve plucked the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, it caused imbalance throughout the Seven Heavens, including Avalon. Demons were born; negative emotions were created and other malicious things. These things may sound harmless but they could corrupt Innocent Souls, making them mad, filling them with darkness.” Imogen waved her hand, sending the little bird flying off towards the highest peak of the towers. “When God decided to cast Adam and Eve to Earth, it was a bad idea. Evil spread throughout the world and corrupted Earth, and so Omnia retreated under the Earth.”

Wind blew from the end of the forest, waltzing with leaves and creating beautiful loops from Imogen’s dark hair. The woman looked towards the sky. For an instant, her black eyes returned to its previous colour – a gentle blue reflecting the world before it. “I wonder how the world will look like without us humans,” she murmured, “I think it’ll be beautiful.”

Vega joined Imogen on watching the birds gliding its way across the sea of daylight. The loose edges of the long-sleeved shirt waved in the wind, making ripples across the white shirt. He was shielded from his surroundings but the he could feel the calamity seeping through the cloth, seeing the blue, green and turquoise colours racing the multi-coloured leaves.

He had never imagined that things were complicated outside and inside. He now felt dangerous, frightened, confused, anxious, anything that could possibly drive a man towards paranoia. He was suddenly hyper aware of the foreign notes floating around him; he felt eyes piercing his skin, even though there were no one there except for the two of them. A warm hand was placed on his shoulder, making him jump and turn jerkily towards Imogen, concern washing over her face. “You don’t need to get so paranoid. It’ll be okay as long as you have Celestia and Armada,” she reassured.

Exhaling the breath he had held, Vega slowly formed a smile, easing up a little, “Yeah, I guess so. They’re… safe.”

“Great! Now that you know everything and are not as worked up as I thought you’ll be, let’s go back to the house – I really need my beauty sleep!” The two started to walk back towards the mansion, taking slow steps while enjoying nature’s beauty.

“By the way,” Vega said, “when are we leaving? Are you going with us?”

“I am going to go with you but we’ll leave after a few days, after we get the things we need,” explained Imogen.

Vega nodded in understanding, knowing full-well that they should not go unprepared. Even though she said this, it was only to defy the boy; her true intentions were not to get information, but to protect Vega from the shadows hanging from the kakoa trees.

Imogen looked up to meet the watchful eyes, keeping Vega oblivious to the danger. “We will go after the storm has cleared,” Imogen said to herself.

-rookieMANGAKA

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